Sunday, May 17, 2015

What to Read for a Female Mid-Life Crisis?

In my post, Ride of Your Life, I wrote about Ran Zilca’s book Ride of Your Life: A Coast-to-Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peace. He was turning 40, and had been successful in business and his personal life, but was unsure who he really was. I think that many people experience this type of feeling in midlife, where they know what they do and where they live, but not exactly sure who they are. It made him feel restless, so he went out to rediscover his identity, quiet the restlessness, and regain his inner peace.

In response to this post, I received the following comment from Ray:
I am going to seriously consider reading this book and hear is why. I am in the 40's and I wonder to myself more and more, who am I? I started to write the blog partly to answer that...... I think I need to read, and find my inner self, and come to some peace as well.

Thoughts on this? Or if one should try another book?
Oh what a comment. I have so many thoughts.

First should Ray read this book?
Sure go ahead, it can’t hurt. I read this one in a PDF format on my e-reader and think I’d have gotten more out of it if I’d read it in print. I love dog-earing pages to review later and wasn’t able to do that with this book. I think I missed a few points especially towards the end.

As for self-help books:
I don't usually finish them. I wasn't even able to finish The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change by Stephen Covey and How to Win Friends & Influence People by Dale Carnagie both of which are on a list of self-help books that stand the test of time at my local library.

Another interesting quote from Ride of your Life:
This one is from Dr. Jamie Pennebaker, Chair of the Psychology department at The University of Texas in Austin:

All of self-help is bullshit and probably most of psychology.

His recommendation:

Show me the money. Show me whatever you’ve got – does it work? Does it work for you? One thing I encourage everybody is to be their own inner scientist: you have to find out what’s really working.

Zilca feels most people are not always good at accessing how well it works for them. In response, Pennebaker suggest that people take their “life pulse” every day.

Well, then you start to measure. You start to write down how many hours of sleep you are getting. You write down how you feel today. Are you sick? What’s your body temperature? There are a million ways to evaluate how your life is going. And yes, we are all delusional about things, but measuring things is not a bad idea. What’s your heart rate and your blood pressure today? How many calories are you eating? How much exercise are you getting? How many fights have you gotten into with friends and coworkers? Make a list of things that are important to you – ideally, things that you can objectively measure. Take your life-pulse every day, see how it’s going. And if it does, that’s wonderful and if it doesn’t, get in line. Most things really don’t work. (Pgs. 82 and 83).
He then suggests using writing to gain clarity about events in your life, their meaning and the way you chose to respond.

So yes dear Ray, read this book and keep blogging it may work for you.

Other book recommendations:
Most of the books I’ve read on self-discovery were tailored towards career discovery.

Here are the ones that helped the most:
Dan Miller's book 48 Days To The Work You Love

Paul Tieger and Barbara Barron-Tieger's book Do What You Are

Tom Rath's book Strengths Finder 2.0

One of my favorite self-discovery books is Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things: Advice on Love and Life from Dear Sugar.

While searching for additional books covering female identity crisis I came across this article in Psychology Today What A Female Mid-Life Crisis Looks Like.  This article mirrors my experience perfectly:
The women in the article have not faced a crisis, but they are facing a mid-life quest for identity. For smart, goal-driven women, a mid-life crisis isn't about recovering lost youth. It's about discovering the application of their greatness. The problem is that no one has defined what "greatness" looks like so the quest has no specific destination.

If you are questioning what is next for your career and possibly, your life, this is a great time to talk to friends who might be going through a similar experience. One of the worst things busy women do is put their friendships on the back burner. There is no need to "tough it out on your own." Find a friend who is also interested in personal development who won't judge the struggle you are experiencing. A good coach can help as well.
I'm considering bringing back "The Savvy Reader Book Club" with a self acceptance or mid-life crisis theme.  Would you be interested?  For starters I'd suggest we read What A Female Mid-Life Crisis Looks Like.

What books would you recommend for a female mid-life crisis or acceptance book club?

Sunday, May 03, 2015

Does Your Husband Take Care of You?

My Aunt, a product of the 1950’s, suggested I look for a husband who will take care of me after I broke up with my boyfriend of seven years. During this time my former boyfriend rarely held a job and was well on his way to becoming a professional student.  (This was back in the eighties before tuition became so outrageously expensive). I could see my family hoping my next boyfriend at least had a job, but to be taken care of!  That concept seemed so old-fashioned to me.

As a teen in the seventies, I dreamed of having it all (like in the Enjoli commercial I grew up with). Plus, I strongly valued my financial independence.  I had been earning my own money since my first babysitting job at twelve years old.  I wasn’t going to stop doing so now.
Also, my parents weren’t the best of role models.  I know my aunt envied my mom for being able to stay home with her children while we were growing up, but my mom had never been “taken care of.”  Instead, she had been controlled; both financially and mentally during her marriage.  She was given grocery money when needed, but other than that my dad decided how every penny was spent.  If my mom wanted something he didn’t approve of she had to take money from her grocery fund or do without. She longed for a job and money of her own.  I wanted a better life for myself.

As to my aunt, she was the first woman I knew who worked outside the home.  Her husband had a good state job, but she liked the finer things in life.  To pay for these extras she had to work. Today at seventy-five she still works part-time while her husband retired from his state job years ago.
Fast forward five years.  I had recently married my husband and we were both attending a party with my extended family.  Another aunt noticed my new car and began gushing over it and my new husband’s ability to take care of me.  How fortunate I was to have made such a good catch.  I was furious.  I had spent the past five years working full-time while going to school.  I had just passed the CPA exam, secured a new job with a bigger salary and bought that new car.  The down payment had come from my savings and the loan was in my name, not my husbands. I was disappointed that of all my accomplishments and hard work, the only recognition I received was for supposedly marrying well.

As for this aunt, her third husband has leukemia and is too sick to work.  I recently saw a photo of her on Facebook selling her hand-made items in a booth at a craft fair.  She too is in her seventies.
Fast forward another fifteen years.  I am attending a holiday celebration with my husband’s family.
His 28-year old niece models her new winter coat; a gift from her new husband.  She says, “He knows how to take care of me.” Again I am surprised by this old-fashioned phrase and that it is coming from someone twenty years younger than me.  Plus, this young woman has a college degree and a better job than her new husband.

During my almost seventeen years of marriage, there have been years when my husband made more than me and others when I made more than him.  I’ve never once considered myself “taken care of” and I don’t think that is something he ever aspired to do.  I do feel he supports me emotionally and is an incredible help with the household chores. I do feel controlled though, but not by my husband. Instead, I'm controlled by my job, the stress that comes with it and the incredible work load. 
I wonder currently if the phrase, “he’ll take care of you” isn’t just wishful thinking.  Today with the high cost of tuition, housing and medical care it has become almost a necessity for both spouses to work at least a portion of their marriage outside the home. I look at my husband’s young niece and can’t help but think wouldn’t it be nice if she didn’t have to work as hard as I do and that she is able to enjoy more of life.  Perhaps that is what both my aunts were thinking when they made those comments to me.  As to my husband’s niece, perhaps she was saying her husband may make less than her but, he still knows what her needs are or how to take care of her.

Does your husband take care of you? 

This post was inspired by Spinster: Making a Life of One's Ownby Kate Bolick, who explores singledom with famous women who fashioned life on their own terms. Join From Left to Write on May 5th as we discuss Spinster. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Stop Using the Fax Machine if You Want to Appear Relevant

This morning I read a great post from Bob Lowry of A Satisfying Retirement. Bob recently read Graeme Thomson’s book George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door a biography of George Harrison. In his post, Lowry writes about the similarities he shares with Harrison. Here is the parallel Lowry makes between his career and Harrisons:
My tie to this story and his life? For the last 6-8 years of my radio consulting business did not evolve. I stayed with the same message, the same ideas, and the same approach that had proved so successful for me through the 1980's into the mid 90's. Even though my industry had changed dramatically, I stopped learning and listening. I didn't change my message or my methods. As a result, my business slowly slipped away until, in the same year that George Harrison died, I found myself faced with retirement, several years before I would have felt financially more secure. I had been passed by. I had stopped changing and found my approach irrelevant.

This post got me thinking about how to stay relevant in the workplace. My company has lost several employees this year to early retirement. When asked why they were leaving, they all responded the same way; their jobs were too stressful and they felt they couldn’t keep up with the changing technology. They weren't forced to retire, but I did hear grumblings about them and their failure to embrace change in meetings. Some managers had recommended phasing these employees out. Fortunately, other managers knew their value and protected them.

How do you know you are becoming irrelevant?

You still use the fax machine:
Last week during a meeting with our bank’s relationship manager, she recommended we stop receiving wire confirmations via fax. This service was costing our company $15 per fax while an email confirmation was free. This led to a conversation about how the fax machine was obsolete, expensive, inefficient etc. Our bank account manager has even contemplated removing his fax number from his business card. He only gets a couple of faxes a month and they are credit confirmations. I immediately knew why this was happening. His clients hadn’t updated their credit reference sheet which still listed fax numbers. (I may be one of them).

My former employee who despised and fought change with a passion was the only employee in our department to still use the fax machine on a regular basis. Every time I walked past the fax machine I’d pick up her faxes then drop them off at her desk. Her replacement refuses to use the fax machine. She also dislikes voice mail and instructs almost everyone who calls her to email her in the future.

You can’t find files after you save them:
Recently my company transferred our computer's data to a new server. During the process our IT manager complained about one of our employees, “She never takes classes to improve her skills or learn better ways to do her job.” His gripe: she didn’t know how to use windows and hadn’t been saving her Microsoft files to the server. I knew right away what she was doing wrong, since I used to do the same thing. When saving files that had been emailed to her she just hit save rather than moving the files to her documents folder and then saving them. My former employee from above used to do the same thing and I and my co-workers were constantly helping her find her files.

After this conversation I suggested our outside computer consultant conduct a class on windows for our administrative staff. He wasn’t keen on the idea saying everyone younger than 45 would be bored. Since most of the employees that struggled with windows have now left the company, this class is now on hold.

If you struggle with windows I suggest you take a class. They offer them at most tech schools, also some libraries and employment agencies offer them at minimal cost or for free.

You are still using the original version of your company’s software; new employees are no longer trained on this software and it doesn’t have the latest software enhancements.
All of the employees who retired early were using the old, outdated version of our company’s software.

You don’t know how to use pivot tables in excel:
A few weeks ago one of my gym buddies, who works in health care, approached me at the gym to tell me she had started using pivot tables and that she loves them. “Hmm… pivot tables doesn’t that have something to do with graphing.” She told me this knowing I’m an accountant and assuming I used them. I said something like great! Then went back to my workout. Afterwards I found an 8-hour class offered by my professional organization on pivot tables and considered signing up, but it is offered the same day as my scheduled doctor’s appointment. You know what a hassle it is to reschedule doctor's appointments, so I didn't sign-up. Someday my department will be filled with 25-year olds whispering behind my back, “She doesn’t know how to use pivot tables.”

Speaking of irrelevant, I still have blogspot in my blog’s URL:
How long have I been blogging? Too long to not have my own domain name. I have an excuse though – I want a domain I can continue to grow and work with throughout the remainder of my blogging career. This year I’m trying out different topics other than work and careers to see what I am comfortable with. With this post – on relevancy – I feel I’m one step closer.

How do you stay relevant?

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Ride of Your Life by Ran Zilca

I first discovered Ran Zilca author of Ride of Your Life: A Coast-to-Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peacewhile researching my Be Strong Project (a project I created to help me become stronger in my 50th year). He had written a great article on building inner strength for Psychology Today which I used as the foundation for my project. Later, I had the opportunity to interview Zilca about inner strength. You can read that interview here. Recently, I was offered a free copy of Ride of Your Lifefor review. Below are my thoughts.

What is Ride of Your Life about?

In Zilca’s own words:
The book is a guide to inner peace, composed over a 6,000 mile, coast-to-coast solo motorcycle ride I took in 2010. I started in New York and rode to California and then down the California coast line. On my way I interviewed different scientists and authors like Deepak Chopra, Phil Zimbardo, Sonja Lyubomirsky, and Byron Katie. The collective wisdom of these experts and of the many people I met on the road, along with the meditative experience of riding in solitude each day, yielded very interesting insights that form the guide.

What was his motivation for this project?

Also in Zilca's words:
I was just turning 40, and being very successful in business and in my personal life, but unsure as to who I really am. I think that many people experience this type of feeling in midlife, where they know what they do and where they live, but not exactly sure who they are. It made me feel restless, so I went out to rediscover my identity, quiet the restlessness, and regain my inner peace.

My Thoughts:

This book is a little bit travelogue, a little bit self-help/self-discovery and a little bit memoir. If you sum up the three parts it is a great little book packed with wisdom. Here are some of my favorite nuggets:

From Dr. Barbara Frederickson Zilca learns bad experiences affect us more than good, but good is more frequent than bad. 

Her first book, Positivity, describes various research studies on positive emotions. The findings are astounding in their simplicity and have to do with the number of positive emotions a person experiences during a day compared with the number of negative emotions, a ratio that is simply called  “the positivity ratio.” If that ratio equals three or higher, you eventually go into an “upward spiral” – a state of flourishing. If your daily dose of positive emotion is less than three times the negative, you risk going into a negative state. Simply put, to flourish, you need to experience three times the good for anything bad. (Pg. 45)
This makes so much sense to me. On days when I come home from work thinking what a lousy day, yet can’t name the reason for my bad day – just a lot of small negative events this study explains it.  My bad day is due to my positivity ratio being upside down. I am not experiencing enough positive emotions to counteract all of my negative encounters.

An effective strategy to become happier:
Cultivate openness so that a person can recognize, notice, and appreciate the good that is already taking place in his or her life, and this way, tip the positivity ratio in his or her favor. (Pg. 45)
Instead of using “be positive” as a motto she prefers “be open,” or be appreciative and kind.

From Deepak Chopra he learns flexibility is the very source of inner strength: “Infinite flexibility is the secret of immortality.”
Flexibility is an attitude more than anything else. It means that I don’t need to always be rigidly attached to anything: a situation, a relationship, a point of view, or an outcome. If you are flexible, the challenge is gone. (Pg. 165)
Lastly, I am adding traveling between Routes 61 and 152 to my bucket list. Zilca describes this landscape as surprisingly Mediterranean. I am also adding the Gila National Forest to the list which reminded Zilca of Switzerland. 

Bottom Line:
Ride of Your Life is a great little book packed with nuggets of wisdom. I recommend it for mid-lifers experiencing a crises or anyone at any stage of life who is looking for more. My only negative is the book seemed to end rather abruptly. I get it the ride was over and Zilca went home, but I would have preferred more exploration of what he learned and how he applied these new ideas once he returned home.

Have you read this book?  What were your thoughts?

Sunday, April 05, 2015

What Is Your Go-To-Diet Meal? March Recap

Project Manhattan
The first quarter of my 2015 live healthy on a budget challenge is now complete. I know I keep saying this challenge is not about weight loss, but I have to admit I was hoping to lose a couple of pounds and certainly didn’t think I’d gain weight. Unfortunately as of today, I am two pounds heavier than I was on January 1st. My new employee works part-time at a chocolate store – chocolate is one of my major weaknesses and all of her lunch room samples have gotten the best of me.

In years past, when I’ve lost a substantial amount of weight I’ve used the break-up diet (you all know what this one is don’t you – your significant other dumps you and you can’t bring yourself to eat) and starvation – meaning I ate almost nothing - a can of vegetables for dinner then allowing myself one soda cracker if I woke up during the night with hunger pangs. I did manage to lose weight a few years ago utilizing portion control and healthy eating, but haven’t been able to do this yet this year.

Throughout the years my go-to-diet meal has been Flounder and Vegetables Sealed in Silver. This is easy to make and is perfect for a Friday night when you have a big event the next day. This is not a meal I could eat every night, actually probably not more than once every two weeks or so plus, neither sole or flounder are offered at my local grocery store right now, so I am on the look-out for new diet recipes.

I did make a few healthy meals which are worth mentioning this month. They are:

Turkey Meatloaf from The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Acid Reflux Diet
by Maria Bella (As far as acid reflux books go, this one is helpful plus, it contains over 120 recipes)
I’ve made quite a few turkey meatloaf recipes over the years. This is one of the best. It includes a cup of frozen vegetables and mozzarella cheese. As for an acid reflux recipe it is also pretty good, most of them are so bland. My husband has been on an acid reflux diet for about two months now, though his doctor was never sure if acid reflux was the cause of his pain. Since the diet and medication don’t seem to be working, his doctor now believes the pain is from arthritis not acid-reflux.

Teriyaki Tuna Steaks from Leslie L. Cooper’s Low-Fat Living Cookbook: 250 Easy, Great-Tasting Recipes. Fresh tuna is not exactly a budget food, but this recipe was worth it.

Roasted Cauliflower with Chickpeas and Mustard recommended by Ray of British Mum USA. I’ve never had roasted chick peas before and was not disappointed.  I took this one to work for lunch, since hubby refuses to eat chick peas. All I can say is he doesn’t know what he’s missing.

This Zucchini soup recipe.

Here are my remaining healthy living challenge stats for March:

Strength and physical fitness:
I made it to the gym three times a week every week this month (which was my goal). My fitness class rotation includes a turbo kick class, Zumba and cardio combat. I also attended a step and an insane strength class one day when I was off of work.

I was able to do eleven walking pushups at the end of the month.  January 1st I was able to do seven, so I am making progress.

$500 a month grocery budget:
We spent $453 in February. We bought a lot of honey. I’ve been using it in healthy muffin recipes and my husband has been making a honey and apple vinegar concoction for his acid reflux as a replacement for coffee. I also spent money on frozen fruit, shrimp, low-fat ground beef and a pork roast.

Healthy living books:
I finished four books this month:

The No More Excuses Diet  by Maria Kang:
My opinion of this book became tainted when I became aware of her fat-shaming tactics which I wrote about here.

Drop Dead Healthy; One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfection by A.J. Jacobs:
This one was too much of a publicity stunt for me to be taken seriously, but I did add some of the books he mentioned to my reading list.

Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain by Portia De Rossi
A book about eating disorders and self-acceptance I won't be forgetting anytime soon.

Ride of Your Life: A Coast-to-Coast Guide to Finding Inner Peace by Ran Zilca
This book brought new insight into the stresses of my life.  Watch for my review next week.

April Goals:
For April, I plan to get serious about weight-loss.  I am considering a no-sugar diet reset. Trish of Love, Laughter & Insanity recently lost six pounds on a 21-day sugar reset. I will need a couple of weeks to research and prepare. In the meantime, I am looking for new healthy meal suggestions.

Also, for April I am considering adding a 4th workout to my weekly line up.

What is your favorite go-to diet meal?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Portia De Rossi Admits Falling For It

Motivation for reading:
I decided to read Portia De Rossi’s book Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gainafter seeing it on a list of books about self-acceptance. One of my 2015 goals for this blog is to promote self-acceptance.

What is Unbearable Lightness: A Story of Loss and Gain about?
Portia De Rossi is a model and actress who stared in the popular TV shows Ally McBeal and Arrested Development. In this book she shares her personal struggle with eating disorders. Beginning at age 12 she began practicing excessive dieting and bulimic behaviors to stay thin for her modeling career. After feeling shamed by her size 8 body during a photo shoot for L’OrĂ©al she takes her diet and fitness obsessions to a new level and becomes anorexic. Weighing only 82 lbs. she collapses. Doctors inform her she has osteoporosis and her organs were shutting down, but it wasn’t until she realizes she "fell for it" while reading Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Mythdoes she begin a turn-around:
I remember feeling ashamed for calling myself a feminist when I had blatantly succumbed to the oppression of the mass media telling me what was beautiful, how to look and what to weigh. I had always prided myself on the fact that I was smart, analytical, and someone who didn’t “fall for it.” By starving myself into society’s beauty ideal, I had compromised my success, my independence, and my quality of life. The stick-thin prepubescent girls never should have had power over me. I should’ve had my sights set on successful businesswomen and successful female artists, authors and politicians to emulate. Instead I stupidly and pointlessly just wanted to be considered pretty. I squandered my brain and my talent to squeeze into a size 2 dress while my male counterparts went to work on making money, making policy, making a difference. (Pg. 287)
My Thoughts:
This is a book about De Rossi and the conversations she has with herself about food, body image and her lack of self-acceptance. She mentions only in passing Ellen DeGeneres and a few of her co-stars from Ally McBeal. I was struck by how lonely she was and how she feared she would lose her career if her true sexual orientation was discovered. Her detailed account of eating rituals and obsessive workouts are truly scary.

Another interesting point, even at 82 pounds De Rossi still saw herself as fat. It wasn’t until after her health scare that she realized dieting wasn’t going to change her body’s proportions:
I saw a round face, thin arms, a body rib cage, a thick waist, and big thick legs. It was the same body I had always seen, only smaller. The proportions were the same. (Pg. 272)
Bottom Line:
If you know someone with an eating disorder and are interested in learning more about their rituals and how they think I recommend this book. I don’t recommend it for someone with an eating disorder. Professionals feel it is too much of a how-to guide for those prone to eating disorders and they may get additional ideas. It also glosses over the recovery process.

I do recommend it for a self-acceptance book club. It could lead to an interesting discussion.

As for me, I too fell for it. I’ve written before about how I spent most of my free time in my teens and early twenties shopping for the perfect outfit, styling my hair and experimenting with beauty regiments. My husband, on the other hand, at the same age was participating in sports, learning new things, working and traveling. I am also adding Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth to my reading list since I’ve never read it in its entirety.

Have you fell for society’s definition of the beauty ideal? What books would you recommend for a self-acceptance book club?

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Drop Dead Healthy

Motivation for reading:

I read A.J. Jacobs book Drop Dead Healthy: One Man's Humble Quest for Bodily Perfectionin search of ideas and inspiration for my 2015 Challenge to Live Healthy on a Budget.

What is Drop Dead Healthy about?
While on vacation in the Caribbean Jacobs is hospitalized for tropical pneumonia.  After his wife tells him she doesn’t want to be a widow at 45, he decides it’s time to get healthy. He conjures up a challenge for himself to become the healthiest man in the world.  This book chronicles his challenge. Each month he focuses on a different area of his body performing research, consulting experts and implementing what he learns.

My Thoughts:
Initially, I enjoyed Jacob’s escapades to get healthy, but the more I read the more his challenge seemed like a farce. Instead of teaching us to become healthier the book felt like a gimmick. Even Jacobs tired of the variety; after trying several different fitness classes he writes:
It is getting numbing instead of inspiring.  It almost always boils down to moving your arms and legs in a room of mirrors. (Pg. 250)
He then decides he needs an exercise goal and begins training for a triathlon. He doesn’t chronicle his training (which may have been interesting), but instead continues writing about different areas of his body.

I did enjoy his visit to Whole foods with Marion Nestle author of What to Eat;particularly his discussion with Nestle about super foods and antioxidants.  He writes, "We tend to believe the food with the antioxidants is the best.  It makes us overlook all the other non-super foods such as apples and oranges." Here is what Nestle says about blueberries:
The blueberry obsession can be traced, in part, to the clever marketing efforts of the Maine wild blueberry growers.  A decade ago, the Maine blueberry industry was in trouble.  In years past, blueberry promoters had tried several strategies: They attempted to market blueberries as candy.  Even odder, they ran a campaign suggesting blueberries as a condiment to put on hamburgers.  Nothing worked.  But when a Tufts study said that wild blueberries had a high antioxidant rating, they ran with it, and blueberries have become the prototypical health food. (Pg. 97)

In the end, Jacobs does complete a triathlon and according to his stats is healthier.  He includes a list of the best tips and advice he received in the appendix. This is helpful since much of the advice he writes about is confusing and contradictory.  

Bottom Line:
I was looking for a more serious take on this topic, but did find the book to be entertaining and not a complete waste of my time. If you enjoy experimental journalism and or humorous books you may like this one, if not skip the book and read the appendix.

Have you read Drop Dead Healthy?  If so what were your thoughts? What books would you recommend for a live healthy challenge?